Words By: Mike Harrelson    
   
 

No, FIAT does not refer to a micro-Italian car nor the snarky, auto-related acronym, “Fix it again, Tony!”

 

FIAT = fuck-it-all-tour. It’s a method of decompression we rediscovered last year on an extended walkabout in Central America. In short, a FIAT is a much-needed getaway from work and life. It’s a cleansing breath travel experience to regain one’s existential bearings. As such, it’s a non-pharmaceutical (nevertheless habit-forming) treatment that may well fit into your grander scheme. Ask your doctor if a FIAT might be right for you.

 

Though we didn’t dub it as such, we launched on our first FIAT back in 2001. Winding down a 15-year run with Patagonia, I was glum and off balance when my sexy, ski product line gig got relocated from snow-choked Montana to sand-intensive SoCal. Choosing not to get on the bus, I licked my wounds of job and income loss by bailing with my family to spend a year of healing on Hawaii’s Big Island (which morphed into two years). In the rearview mirror of life, that decision – to leave our cozy Bozeman hamlet, to go cold turkey on the outdoor/snowsports biz, and immerse ourselves in the middle of the steel blue Pacific – was damn powerful tonic.

DOSED ON NONSTOP DIGITAL NOISE AND OUR SELF-IMPOSED BLUR OF BUSYNESS (CAN YOU RELATE?), ALL WE KNEW FOR CERTAIN WAS WE NEEDED WAY MORE RENEWAL THAN ANY TWO-WEEK VACATION, 100 SUN SALUTATIONS OR JUICE CLEANSE COULD PROVIDE.

So, a little over a year ago, my gal and I found ourselves growing weary of our long-burn jobs as well as all the attendant hoopla of being responsible adults. Dosed on nonstop digital noise and our self-imposed blur of busyness (can you relate?), all we knew for certain was we needed way more renewal than any two-week vacation, 100 sun salutations or juice cleanse could provide. So, we started plotting.


Part of our impetus came from our younger boy who’d just returned from a year of studying apex-fruits (durian) in Malaysia & Thailand. Additionally, he swung ice tools in Nepal and tapped into some thumpy Indonesian waves. We figured if this gap year trend was good for youngsters – trying to gain perspective and sort out a direction in life – it might also have therapeutic benefits for us post-middle agers. (Meeting all the AARP requirements, we began billing our decision to unplug as pretirement.)

Whether a FIAT, “adult gap year” or pretirement, the point is to guzzle a bottle of carpe diem. Line out a plan in pencil, with an eraser at the ready to modify on the fly. Initially, we planned to winter in Puerto Rico, but decided – mid-travels – to take volunteer work in Panama where we could trade labor for room & board. While I never anticipated gaining ninja machete skills, I was put to the task of pruning the monkey jungle into a feng shui’ed Zen garden. And, in my downtime, I surfed my brains out.


So, here’s my counsel, kids - take semi-regular respites throughout your life. Ideally these sojourns will be more lengthy and illuminating than your average, umbrella drink vacation. We studied Spanish in a semi-remote, fishing village in Nicaragua. In addition to seeking hammock consciousness and fine-tuning my bottom turn, it was satisfying to scribe fresh grooves in our brains while living lower on the food chain.

NO DOUBT, WE'RE CAPTIVE ON A CAROUSEL OF TIME, RIDING OUR PAINTED PONIES UP AND DOWN. THAT IS, UNLESS YOU DECIDE TO STEP OFF THIS MERRY-GO-ROUND OF MADNESS.

Surely you know the rejuvenating power of a wild hare road trip – loaded for bear to go shred in some faraway place. Go with your instincts, grasshopper, and delay not thy gratification. Save up a few ducats, button down your logistics, sell off your chaff and go off into the wild blue yonder. Every few years, rinse & repeat…

 

No doubt, we’re captive on a carousel of time, riding our painted ponies up & down. That is, unless you decide to step off this merry-go-round of madness.
 


 
Mike Harrelson developed an early love for the natural environment. Through oceans, mountains and wild places, Harrelson speaks honestly about how incredible life can and should be. Check him out at: Mikeharrelson.com


Words BY: Mike Harrelson

   
   
 

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